Mike Meagher remembers the smile he had on his daily afternoon commute, leaving his teaching job at Charlestown High and driving along Memorial Drive en route to Boston Latin.
For 50 years, the always positive Meagher coached cross country and track at Boston Latin, becoming a staple in the school’s athletic program and a mentor to avid runners like himself.
On Thursday, the 75-year old announced his retirement as head coach of Latin’s track program. His final season came this past fall when he led the Wolfpack’s cross-country team through an abbreviated four-meet schedule in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Latin is considered the best high school in the city academically,” Meagher said. “These kids are extremely intelligent and they’re all great, great kids. That’s what made my job easy, I was dealing with all smart kids. I don’t think I had any Latin kids ever talk back to me. It was just a pleasure.”
Meagher fell in love with track and field as a kid because his father was a runner and track official. He ran at Boston Tech High School in the 1960s and then in college at Boston State College, now UMass Boston.
In 1971, when he was 25 and a teacher at the John F. Kennedy Elementary School in Jamaica Plain, Meagher was hired as a citywide cross country coach for a team mostly made up of student-athletes from Boston Tech or Boston Latin. Ten years later, Boston Latin left the Boston City League and joined the Dual County League, and Meagher became Latin’s full-time head coach.
Over his five-decade run, Meagher said he’s grateful for the relationships he’s built with the student-athletes, praising Latin kids for their respectfulness and kindness.
“Believe me, I had a smile on my face every day when I left Charlestown High School,” said Meagher, who taught discipline at Charlestown for 24 years. “The Latin school kids are just unbelievable how nice they are. It’s incredible.”
Looking back on his career, which included a 2009 Globe Coach of the Year award for indoor track, Meagher highlighted a trio of runners — Dave Fleming, Caroline O’Laughlin, and Annie Jackson — all of whom went on to run Division 1 college track.
However, with COVID-19 ramping up and Meagher’s daughter-in-law pregnant with his second grandchild, he decided it was time to hang up the whistle.
Boston Latin athletic director Jack Owens said he looked up to Meagher as a mentor. Owens, a 2003 Latin graduate, acknowledged that not only did Meagher know the ins and outs of track and field, but he had the special ability to connect with student-athletes on a personal level.
“He was there for everyone on-and-off the track,” Owens said. “And that not only makes him a great coach but a great human being. It wasn’t about the wins and losses with Mike. It was all about those relationships and that’s what he’s going to take away with him in retirement.”